Mark chapter 13
This talk was given by Paul Wintle on .
Before the talk, the chapter is read from the NIV (New International Version) by Gill Morgan,
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[00'13"] Mark 13 [NIVUK]
[04'44"] Opening prayer
[07'10"] Mark 13
[14'48"] The signs of the times
[20'50"] An encouragement
[26'23"] Closing prayer
[Gill Morgan] Mark 13, ‘The Signs of the End of the Age’ is the first sub-heading, and I shall read this chapter through before Paul comes out. I am reading it from the NIV version NIVUK.
Mark 13 [NIVUK] [00'13"]
As he was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Look, teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings.’
‘Do you see all these great buildings?’ replied Jesus. ‘Not one stone here will be left on another, every one will be thrown down.’
As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John and Andrew asked him privately, ‘Tell us, when will all these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?’
Jesus said to them, ‘Watch out that no one deceives you. Many will come in my name, claiming, “I am he,” and will deceive many. When you hear of wars and rumours of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places and famines. These are the beginning of birth-pains.
‘You must be on your guard. You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of me you will stand before Governors and Kings as witnesses to them. And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking but the Holy Spirit.
‘Brother will betray brother to death and a father his child. Children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. All men will hate you because of me but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.
‘When you see “the abomination that causes desolation” standing where it does not belong — let the reader understand — then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let no one on the roof of his house go down or enter the house to take anything out. Let no one in the field go back to get his cloak. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! Pray that this will not take place in winter, because those will be days of distress unequalled from the beginning, when God created the world until now — and never to be equalled again.
‘If the Lord had not cut short those days no one would survive. But for the sake of the elect, whom he has chosen, he has shortened them. At that time if anyone says to you, “Look, here is the Christ!” or “Look, there he is!” do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and miracles to deceive the elect, if that were possible. So be on your guard; I have told you everything ahead of time.
‘But in those days, following that distress,
“the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light;
the stars will fall from the sky,
and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.”
‘At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And He will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens.
‘Now learn this lesson from the fig-tree: as soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that it is near, right at the door. I tell you the truth. This generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.
‘No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. It’s like a man going away: he leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with his assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.
‘Therefore keep watch, because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back — whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the cock crows or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you I say to everyone: “watch!” ’
Opening prayer [04'44"]
Father God, as Paul comes to speak to us now we just pray that we will have ears open to hear from him and that he will be bringing to us what is of you. And may we be refreshed by what we hear, encouraged by what we hear, and may we be strengthened by what we hear too, in Jesus’ name, Amen.
[Paul Wintle] Thank you Gill. So yeah, a nice easy passage to be talking about today. The thing about the context of a chapter to the bible is that it usually follows the one before. It makes sense.
Last week Martin was talking, did exceptionally well I think in expanding and expounding the whole swathe of Mark Chapter 12: belief in resurrection; loving God and neighbour; giving to God what is God’s — ourselves; as well as the importance of giving to God. All this in the context of the temple, that probably isn’t Ruth’s temple. [Before the talk Ruth Basden had been telling us about some of the Bible timeline signs used by Bible Explorer.] But all in the context of the temple where Jesus was teaching and others were trying to catch him out as well as those who are genuinely trying to work out what Jesus was saying. And so Mark, Chapter 12 is full of the Gospel. Keeping the law of loving — of two commandments, loving God and loving one another.
Mark, Chapter 13’s context is Jesus leaving the temple. Instead of being inside with those who ran the structures, he was now going beyond its walls. And, of course, it’s interesting that Jesus was actually allowed to remain in the temple at all and preach what he was preaching.
Of course, we remember in Mark, Chapter 11, that Jesus threw out the money-changers and called into question the morality of not allowing all nations into the temple. And so no wonder at the end of Mark, Chapter 11, and almost the whole of Mark, Chapter 12, Jesus’s authority was being questioned.
Mark 13 [07'10"]
And now as we go out of the temple, imagine looking perhaps from the Kidron Valley across to what would have been probably one of the biggest, most amazing structures in the world at the time, Herod’s temple. As a disciple of Jesus from Galilee, never in your life would you have seen something so magnificent and opulent. From my reading I understand that one stone may have been 40 feet long by 18 feet deep by 12 feet high, or something like that. So perhaps even the size of the room next door, the hall next door — one stone — wow! It would have been impossible not to have marvelled at its sheer size.
Of course the temple itself was the centre of Jewish worship and Jewish culture. Everything was about the temple. Everything was about this place. It’s the place where God lived in the holy of holies. Where only the High Priest could go once a year. Having spent so much time in the temple grounds as a disciple of Jesus over these last few days, you would perhaps have got to know some of its location and geography. The architecture, the layout, the sheer magnificence would have been breath-taking.
Now my experience of the temple, well it doesn’t exist much any more so I — and I’ve never been to Jerusalem. But when I was working in London, one of the things that kept me going in this horrible job that I had then was seeing St. Paul’s Cathedral on the train in the morning and the evening. What an amazing structure it was, with a lovely huge dome which wasn’t actually supported by anything apart from itself. Wow! Amazing!
Back to the temple — how opulent, how amazing, how fantastic this structure was. Yet Jesus seems pretty unimpressed with it. He has spoken against the religious leaders and also against the people who have misused its purpose. The temple was now being used for selling trinkets and offerings and food. It was seen as the place to be in order to gain perhaps merit marks for putting in lots of money into the temple coffers. It was a place of segregation.
Women were only allowed into a small part here and Gentiles had their own court there. The men could go in, yet there were boundaries that were not allowed to be crossed. The holy place was not entered by many people at all.
Jesus wanted people to see that salvation didn’t come from a building or from earth, from the temple, but from a God in heaven. If the temple had become a place where the religious leaders were held in perhaps too much awe, then perhaps it was better to focus on God without a temple.
There’s that simplicity in worship and no need for a building as God didn’t live in a building any more with Jesus. What a huge challenge that would have been for the temple leaders. No wonder they wanted Jesus dead, though the temple had been the centre of Jewish faith since Solomon’s time and possibly before — hundreds of years before — Jesus’ answer to the disciples that there was something more — more important than the temple, must have really shocked and surprised them.
The fact that Jesus was predicting future events to the disciples was important enough for this story to be recorded in Matthew and Mark and Luke, the Synoptic Gospels.
Of course the disciples wanted to know when these things would happen and what would be the signs? But Jesus takes this a little bit differently. They may have been the right questions that humanly we would have asked.
Imagine perhaps your favourite building being destroyed. Jesus characteristically doesn’t seem to answer the disciples’ questions about the destruction of the temple. Instead what follows is a prophecy lesson, a solemn prophecy, but he also used this as a lever to introduce the need to be ready for the end of the world as we know it; to see God’s kingdom in all its fullness.
As with most things about Jesus, he seeks to tease out faith. Now one of the difficulties of interpreting Mark, Chapter 13, is that it forms what we call apocalyptic writings, the stuff about the end times. And it’s not easy to distinguish whether Jesus is speaking prophetically about things which have now happened in our day, or things yet to come.
One commentator says this, “Jesus didn’t give the disciples teaching, which was irrelevant to them, and only intended for distant generations. This is something, which is consistent, a consistent feature about all the bible’s teachings about the last things. It’s always a moral teaching. It is concerned with the way we are to live in the light of it.”
In this passage Jesus tells his disciples five times, five times, to watch out, be alert; some of the signs of the times are happening in the first century Jerusalem, and some perhaps will be later. Perhaps there’s a whole mixture.
Indeed history tells us that Jesus is right when he talks about the abomination that causes desolation. Back in 165 BC Antiochus Epiphanes, great name, caused the original abomination. Some people say that he slaughtered a pig in the temple courts, on the temple altar; others say that he set up a statue of himself in the temple courts — certainly something that the Jewish people would have found most horrifying.
In AD 40, probably not too long after the death and resurrection of Jesus, the Roman Emperor Caligula planned to place a statue of himself again in the temple, but this didn’t happen. And in AD 70, Emperor Titus destroyed the city of Jerusalem and it’s probably to this event that Jesus is alluding in his prophecy. It seems that in more reality more people stayed in the city rather than headed for the hills, they didn’t heed Jesus’ warning to stay on watch.
The signs of the times [14'48"]
Signs of the times certainly came true in that generation. And, of course, we’re also living in the last days now. But what about Mark? He’s writing to the people who, who perhaps knew what was happening in the first century. They kind of probably know the code in which he is writing. The abomination that causes desolation — Mark doesn’t actually say who that is — probably to make sure that the people he was writing to were as safe as they could be.
And then he uses this — the — then he uses the interesting aside, let the reader understand — Mark is giving a wink and nod to his audience to be on their guard. We don’t need to tell the names of the people that are not on our side, but we need to be aware.
So what’s this got to do with us in the 21st century? Remember that Jesus said his words would never pass away and so as such we need to ensure that we are still listening to his words today. We need to heed his words to watch for the continuing signs of the times as they will usher in the birth pangs of the fullness of the Kingdom of God in Jesus’ return.
And of course just over these last few weeks we’ve seen things, which might kind of direct us again to the horrors of what might happen in the end times, with terrorism and awful things happening in the fire in London and other things too. These things should draw us to prayer, to draw us to Christ.
In the destruction of the temple in AD 70 this prophetic sign showed that God no longer lived in a small room in the back of the temple in Jerusalem. The temple was not where God lived any more, if in fact that’s where he lived at all. In the same way today, we need to ensure that God does not just stay in church, in this building with us.
A previous minister of mine, David John, would often speak of the Church gathered and the Church scattered. The Church gathered like we are today, to worship and to encourage each other, to receive communion and to praise God. But we are still no less Church when we walk out the doors, when we get on with our everyday stuff in the week, when we are away from this building, we are still Church. We are sent, if you like, on mission to love God and love the world wherever we are as the Church scattered.
We are not scattered Church only when things get tough, although that’s when we think of the church being scattered. It’s our purpose to be gathered and scattered; to be together and then to go out.
Finally Jesus talks about these things that we may see as future events. Those things, which are the birth pangs of the ushering in of the fullness of his kingdom, like the disciples we see horrors and events today, decline in religious faith, worldwide persecution of the Church, terrorism, war and conflict, loss of life. And, just as Jesus spoke the words to the disciples, so we need to hear the words, watch out! Be alert! The Kingdom of God is at hand — repent and believe the good news, that Jesus has offered a way of friendship with God.
We need to be alert and on watch because we don’t know when Jesus is going to return. We need to prepare for this because Jesus wants his people to be like a bride on her wedding day, pure, spotless, ready for her groom.
Some of you in here will have been brides. Some of you will have been brides of mothers, mothers of brides even … I can just imagine the wedding day and the mother of the bride stressing and faffing around, hold the phone calls, have the flowers arrived yet? Have you got your make up on dear? Where’s the hair-spray? Oh is it that time already? Just like a student before their exams, which I have experienced, we need to ensure that our work is done and that everything is handed in on time.
We can’t afford to wait because we don’t know when Jesus will return. As my Dad would say in terms of decorating, preparation is the key. The community of God will one day be joined to Christ in such a way that it will be like a bride and groom on their wedding day, but this wedding, this marriage, will last for eternity.
Jesus reminds his followers of the cursing of the fig tree in Mark, Chapter 11, perhaps code again for the people of God to be ready. A reminder to us that if a fig tree can be cursed, so faith that’s as small as a mustard seed can move mountains.
An encouragement [20'50"]
Let me read an encouragement; so we’ve thought about the temple and what encouragement it was for the Jewish people. How amazing it was, these big stones, and now we have judgement, terror, horror, all in the context of the last times. And so we turn to Revelation, Chapter 21; I’m reading from the Living Bible version TLB.
Then I saw a new earth (with no oceans!) and a new sky, for the present earth and sky had disappeared and I, John, saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven. It was a glorious sight, beautiful as a bride at her wedding.
I heard a loud shout from the throne saying, “Look, the home of God is now among men, and he will live with them and they will be his people; yes, God himself will be among them. He will wipe away all tears from their eyes, and there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying, nor pain. All that has gone forever.”
A little bit later it says:
… I watched that wondrous city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of the skies from God. It was filled with the glory of God and flashed and glowed like a precious gem, crystal clear like jasper. Its walls were broad and high, with twelve gates guarded by twelve angels. And the names of the twelve tribes of Israel were written on the gates.
It goes on:
The angel held in his hand a golden measuring stick to measure the city and its gates and walls.
What an exciting job the angel had.
When he measured it he found that it was a square as was wide as it was long; in fact it was in the form of a cube, for its height was exactly the same as its other dimensions — 1,500 miles each way. Then he measured the thickness of the walls and found them to be 216 feet across, …
And then it goes on to talk about lots of different colours and transparencies of words that I can’t say … but
No temple could be seen in the city, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are worshiped in it everywhere and the city has no need of sun or moon to light it, for the glory of God and of the Lamb illuminate it. Its light will light the nations of the earth, and the rulers of the world will come and bring their glory to it. Its gates never close, they stay open all day long—and there is no night! And the glory and honor of all the nations shall be brought into it. Nothing evil will be permitted in it—no one immoral or dishonest—but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. TLB
God’s home, God’s home was always with humanity. That was always the plan. Just look at Genesis, Chapter 3, when God walked in the Garden of Eden in the cool of the evening and said to Adam and Eve, “Where are you?” Knowing that they’d sinned, Adam and Eve kind of hid from God. But it was always, always about God being with his people. It was never about the Jews being over here and the Gentiles being over there. God was always for all nations. It was never really about the temple, which seems to have divided Jews and Gentiles. It was never about that. It was always, always about the relationship that God wanted to have with his people.
God’s promise is that the marriage preparations are under way and we must await the wedding day with great expectation. So Church in Frodsham, let’s live as the Bride of Christ, living every day enjoying him. As the days before God’s full kingdom comes, let’s be aware and watch out for the signs of the times. Marriage today is only a foretaste of the joy that comes of being the bride of Christ in the fullness of God. So let’s practice being new creations today. Let’s practice being part of the bride of Christ.
And a challenge as we close, if you knew that Jesus was coming tomorrow, I wonder what I would change about my life; I wonder what preparations I would make. Seek the Lord while he may be found; now is the time to take advantage of the good things of God, so that we can take advantage of them in the full Kingdom of God. Let’s live the life that Christ paid to offer us now as best we can. Shall we pray?
Closing prayer [26'23"]
Father God, we thank you that our life is secure in you. Father God, thank you that despite the fact that there are awful things in this world, we can still depend and trust in you. As we await your full kingdom, would you please give us confidence in you, strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow? Blessings all mine with 10,000 besides. Heavenly Father, would you please help us to be the Church wherever we are? Help us to please you and to honour you, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
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Scripture quotations marked NIVUK and from Mark chapter 13 on this page and within the talk is taken from or based on the Holy Bible, New International Version® Anglicized, NIV® Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Scripture quotations marked TLB and from Revelation 21 on this page and within the talk is taken from or based on the The Living Bible copyright © 1971 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.